Customer Review

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't 'pass' this up..., July 15, 2008
This review is from: Passing Strange (Audio CD)
"Passing Strange" is yet another outstanding new cast recording, following closely after the irresistible Tony-winner "In the Heights" and the edgy, off-broadway stunner "Adding Machine." I'm a happy musical fan right now-- all three will be on my list of the decade's best.

More than just being exemplary recordings of essential new scores, all three also represent completely different musical types-- put them together and you have a great showcase for how fantastically varied musicals are. "In the Heights" features catchy Latin-pop and rap, "Adding Machine" is an eclectic, rhythmic original, and here's "Passing Strange," the most authentic rock score since "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."

"Authentic" is, in fact, probably the best word to describe "Passing Strange." With music by Stew (who also stars as the narrator of this autobiographical piece, and won a Tony for the show's book) and Heidi Rodewald, this is the story of a black "Youth" (Daniel Breaker) who leaves behind his middle class background to set out on a journey of self-discovery. Although the character is a musician at odds with black stereotypes, who goes as far away as Amsterdam and Berlin on his search for the "Real," the themes, of course, are universal-- growing up, finding your niche, accepting yourself. It's all relayed with great feeling and humor by Stew-- his connection to the music is palpable, and indeed it's hard to imagine anyone else performing "Passing Strange." This is his story, and a glimpse into his soul.

And what a great collection of songs. One of the pleasures of the recording is how varied the songs are-- there's a stylistic jolt from track to track, from the rock-gospel "Church Blues Revelation/ Freight Train," to the haunting "Arlington Hill," the affectingly poignant "Keys," and the tour-de-force breakdown-in-song "Identity." That last one is performed so electrically by Daniel Breaker that it's hard to believe he wasn't handed a Tony for his efforts (he's excellent throughout). The recording also more than deserves its "explicit content" advisory--profanities and drug references abound (with highlights like "Amsterdam" and "Stoned," it's not hard to see why). Fantastic listening.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 16, 2008 10:49:03 PM PDT
I disliked this show intensely, but then I am a fan of "singable" stuff like Rogers and Hammerstein or Kander and Ebb. It seems that most of the current Broadway offerings are intended for the "rock" generation and not the "golden oldies". We don't get stand alone songs any more, like "You'll Never Walk Alone" or "Impossible Dream" or "So In Love With You Am I", just hard, pounding non-music.

Carolann Scott

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 7, 2008 1:09:03 AM PDT
Hi Carolann--
I have feet on both sides of this fence, and love both the older pure songs and raucous rock 'n roll, too. I would suggest that if you want to give Stew another chance to try some of his solo albums, like Guest Host and Naked Dutch Painter. These do have some rock/band tunes, but they are generally quieter and I think you will see what a splendid songwriter and craftsman he is. The lyrics, melodies and delivery are searching, honest, tender, inspiring, poignant--and often a lot of fun, too! There is also an early Negro Problem album I would recommend called Joys and Concerns, which is along the same lines; don't miss the hidden tracks which are about 9 or 10 minutes after the "last" song. I know Stew, and I have seen him hold a room spellbound with just his voice and an acoustic guitar, so the "songs" are there, believe me.
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